The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) said that self-employed practitioners at the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) were being “bullied and intimidated” by bosses using client feedback as part of “equality assurance” procedures.
This process is disproportionately affecting black workers, who are more likely to receive more negative feedback than their white counterparts, the IWGB said.
A worker at the trust, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “When I encountered racist clients, [the NCT] sided with them and did not protect me. Instead, they threatened to take away my licence to practice.
“They put so much pressure on me. When I told my ‘mentor’ I was suicidal, she told me not to behave like a child.”
The revelation comes ahead of a parliamentary debate today on Britain’s large racial disparity in maternal mortality rates, triggered by a petition calling for action on the issue receiving nearly 200,000 signatures.
Black women are five times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than white women, according to a 2019 report by the University of Oxford’s MBRRACE research group.
The IWGB said that working conditions at the NCT, which provides practical and emotional support for expectant and new parents, had “deteriorated” in recent years.
The union, which represents mainly low-paid migrant workers, is calling on the charity to take “meaningful action” to tackle racial discrimination and for bosses to grant recognition to the IWGB.
Ajmal Waqif, black, Asian and minority ethnic officer of the IWGB charity workers’ branch, said that some charities are failing to live up to the high ethnical standards that they set themselves when it comes to their own workers.
“The NCT’s treatment of our members, and their inability to see the discrimination built into their procedures, shows that when it comes to systemic racism experienced by workers in the sector, many charities still have a very long way to go,” he added.
“The charity sector must examine its role in deeply unequal [maternity] outcomes.”